Small retailers in Croydon bore the brunt of the rioting and looting witnessed in the south London borough, but community action prevented the destruction of one store, C-Store has learned.

Local councillor Humayum Kabir claimed that small businesses in the area were "sacrificed at the expense of the high street chains". He said: "It's the community shops that have been the most affected, yet the police were protecting the big chain stores which can afford to absorb the cost."

The police were unavailable to comment on the accusations.

Customers came to the aid of Shivakumar Nawarathinam at Eshop General Stores when looters attempted to raid his store. "A few customers were in here when it started so I locked them in to protect them," Shivakumar said. "When raiders came, they told them that this was a community store run by local people, which stopped them coming in. If they had, it would have been the end of my business."

Neighbouring retailer Dee Patel of Early to Late on London Road had more than £15,000-worth of tobacco and alcohol stolen from his store. "We closed early, but raiders smashed a window and looted everything," he said. "We've only just managed to get some stock back in to keep going, but it's going to be tough to survive."

Several convenience stores along London Road remained closed in the week following the riots due to unstable buildings, and much of the street was cordoned off by police.

In Reeves Corner, scene of a dramatic fire, retailers were still suffering as C-Store went to press. Minesh Patel of Quick Stop Express on George Street said his trade had been devastated. "Business is a quarter of what it usually is because the trams aren't coming down the street and people are afraid to come into the area," he said. "Deliveries can't get to us so we've almost run out of stock. We're going to struggle because the rent still has to be paid, but our trade is nothing like it was."